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Published July 23, 2009, 07:17 AM

Crews construct, set up towers to study wind farm possibilities

AVON — Two meteorological towers have been erected near Avon to determine whether the area is suitable for building a wind farm.
B&H Wind of Avon constructed the towers, each of which cost the company $25,000, according to B&H Vice President Bruce Voigt, of Tyndall. The towers, which are almost 200 feet tall, will measure wind speed, direction, temperature and barometric pressure for the next two to three years.

By: Liz Bos, The Daily Republic

AVON — Two meteorological towers have been erected near Avon to determine whether the area is suitable for building a wind farm.

B&H Wind of Avon constructed the towers, each of which cost the company $25,000, according to B&H Vice President Bruce Voigt, of Tyndall. The towers, which are almost 200 feet tall, will measure wind speed, direction, temperature and barometric pressure for the next two to three years.

“Before you can do anything you have to have at least one year of data for financing,” Voigt said.

The towers are solar-powered and were erected on land leased from area landowners. Data collected from the towers will be sent over the Internet to the B&H engineer’s office in Minnesota.

The company’s goal is to determine the area’s wind capacity. Voigt said the wind needs to blow enough to generate electricity 40 percent of the time. Once the measurements for one area have been taken, the towers can be moved to other locations to do more measurements.

B&H Wind’s board members are from area towns such as Tripp and Tyndall. The company wants to build wind farms in order to generate money for the local economy and make area towns more independent.

“It’s time we become energy selfsufficient,” said state Sen. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland, who has been helping with B&H’s project. “It’s long overdue.”

Voigt said the area near Avon was chosen not only for its wind potential, but also for its proximity to local electricity transmission lines.

“The big thing with any wind development is transmission lines,” Voigt said.

According to Voigt, putting in new transmission lines costs electrical companies $1 million per mile, which makes it important that the group find an area close to existing infrastructure. Avon has three transmission lines in the area, which makes it promising for building wind farms in the future.

“You’ll see wind towers within three to five years,” Voigt said. “That’s my prediction.”

If the area is found to have the required wind capacity, a wind farm can be built. Voigt is unsure how big the wind farm would be or how many towers it would have; he won’t know more about that until wind data is processed. If the area has the capacity for generating 100 megawatts of electricity, then 50, 2-megawatt turbines could be constructed. Voigt said B&H thinks the area can generate up to 300 megawatts.

Data collected by the towers will be analyzed by engineers to see what areas would be good spots to place turbines and what size of turbines to use.

“The new wind turbines are getting pretty sophisticated,” Voigt said.

Newer turbines can be up to 300 feet tall, with blades 165 feet long and the capacity to generate 3 megawatts of electricity.

Costs for the wind farm wouldn’t be cheap. Voigt said each megawatt generated costs $1 million, so a 50-megawatt wind farm would cost $50 million. However, with two years of good wind data, B&H’s leases on potential turbine sites could then be sold to large investment companies who would pay to construct the turbines.

“The big thing right now is the economy,” Voigt said. “A lot of wind farms got canceled or put on hold because of the economy.”

Normally, a wind farm is eligible for a production tax credit of 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity generated for its first 10 years of operation.

But a new feature of the stimulus act signed by President Obama in February added an additional incentive for wind farms. Rather than using the 2.1-cent tax credit, wind companies can opt to receive a government grant of up to 30 percent of the property’s total value.

“That’s real attractive rather than just building it and taking the PTC,” Voigt said.

Once the turbines are constructed, Voigt said, they take up about an acre of land each. Turbines cannot be constructed within a quarter mile of a residence or road for safety reasons.

Although area citizens have had their doubts about whether the project will work, Voigt said B&H is determined to meet its goal.

“This is something that we’ll be able to carry on for generations,” Kloucek said.

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